How can a startup benefit from ISO 14001?

For many startup companies, environmental concerns and standards like ISO 14001 are not a top priority, but rather something that can be looked at after the initial growing period of the company has ended, and things have settled down. In my experience, many organizations think that there is an inherent risk in attempting to establish an EMS (Environmental Management System) and its associated processes, when the initial stresses of trying to establish and grow an organization exist daily. There are, however, many compelling reasons to indicate that this is exactly the time to adopt the good practices and benefits that ISO 14001 compliance and certification can bring. So, what are these benefits, and what tips can we take on board to ensure that our startup derives the maximum benefit from ISO 14001 implementation?

ISO 14001 during the startup period – Why?

In the previous article: 6 key benefits of ISO 14001, we examined the benefits that ISO 14001 can bring to any organization, and while these are relevant, startups should have additional reasons to recognize the potential benefits of adopting the standard, as follows:

  • Establishment of effective processes: Many startups find themselves struggling to ascertain the most effective way to do many things, but the guidance provided in the ISO 14001 standard can help establish an effective method of working through adopting the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” model, giving an excellent foundation for the integration of other management systems and processes along with the EMS. This ultimately will save the startup time and money, both valuable commodities in the early days of a company. For example, establishing a purchasing process that includes relevant environmental criteria can provide excellent clarification early in the life of a startup, ensuring that any purchases made consider lifecycle information and all other relevant elements that can help the organization.
  • Cost savings: It is widely recognized that implementing ISO 14001 in your business can reduce costs. Whether your significant environmental aspects are traveling costs, utility expenses, delivery charges, packaging, or raw material to manufacture your products, implementing ISO 14001 can help you to mitigate these aspects and reduce your costs accordingly. Saving such costs this early in the lifecycle of the business can ensure your startup survives and flourishes during the critical early days when finance is especially important.
  • Reputational benefit: Having an EMS that is certified according to ISO 14001 can be a huge selling point for any business, and especially so for a startup. Pitching for business or new contracts while having the benefit of being able to demonstrate that your organization is environmentally responsible can give your startup a measurable advantage.
  • Help with strategic objective setting: In the 2015 revision of ISO 14001, there is added emphasis on ensuring that the objectives of the EMS are aligned with the overall strategic objectives of the organization. The recognition and following of this process can bring huge benefits to a startup, where setting of objectives may be happening for the first time. Ensuring there is a strong relationship between environmental and company objectives can help the startup move forward in a structured and organized fashion. You can find out more about this element in the article Ensuring that environmental objectives are aligned with the company’s strategic direction.
  • External communication: The element of external communication, required to meet the terms of the ISO 14001:2015 standard, should be seen as a benefit – this will give your customers and stakeholders visibility of your environmental credentials and improve your reputation.

So, that makes sense, but how can you convince your boss and co-workers that ISO 14001:2015 implementation is a good idea at what is normally a stressful time for a new business?

ISO 14001 for the startup – How can it be done?

In the previous article: How to get management buy in for before ISO 14001 implementation, we considered the methods you can use to try and get management buy-in for your project. These tips are relevant for a startup, too, but it makes real sense in a startup to start out doing things in the way you plan to do them in the future, and implementing good practice and being environmentally aware is something that can benefit a business at the earliest opportunity; there is no point in waiting until later to adopt good processes and practices.

The combination of the benefits of the process approach, shared company targets and objectives, cost savings due to reduced waste, and the reputational benefits of ISO 14001 that offer your startup a competitive edge in the market can provide sufficient drivers for convincing your team the project is worthwhile. In terms of the “how,” there are several options: using a consultant, having an employee with the necessary knowledge to implement and train your staff, or using an online toolkit. So, what are you – and your startup – waiting for?

Use this free online training  ISO 14001 Foundations course to learn the basics of implementing the standard in a startup.

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.